If everyone brings one locally-sourced item, your buffet will serve as a model of green festing.
Q: I'm throwing a holiday party and want it to be as green as possible without breaking the bank. Is it tacky to tell people not to bring imported wine?
A: Honey, the only thing that's tacky is how you do it. It's your party - you can cry over pesticides and greenhouse gases carted in with your wine if you want to. But you'd be better off turning a negative into a positive.
Don't wave your finger in friends' faces and tell them they can't enter unless they're wearing sweatshop-free shoes and drinking organic beer. Just theme your party out to give them an idea of the parameters - you know, like a Locavore Love-in where everyone has to bring one locally made/grown/concocted item, be it the home-knitted sweater on their back, a bottle of local wine or a local cheese for others to nibble at.
And, of course, use the rest of the night as an opportunity to showcase the best of green partying 101. For one, make sure the room is decked out with elements from the world outside your doorstep, not Italian eucalyptus leaves, Peruvian cedar boughs or plastic garlands all the way from China.
Just snag some twigs and fallen pine cones from your neighbourhood park. Trim a bough or two from your backyard conifers. Hike the Don Valley trail for some holly and rosehips. You can't get any greener, or freer.
Oh, and if setting the mood with beeswax candles is too pricey for you, look for some made of vegetable waxes like Scents Alive. They're
also virtually soot-free, so they won't pollute your party with particulate emissions.
All right, you've got your halls decked. Now you need your bar stocked. This is the time to showcase those local wines that have gone the extra green mile, like Henry of Pelham, Pelee Island, Tawse, EastDell and Flat Rock Cellars. They're not certified organic, but they're folding sustainable practices into each bottle.
And you can't have a good bash without additional routes to getting trashed, so make a retro punch, stirring in organic nectars. If you've got a juicer, press some fresh Ontario apples for apple martinis. Do it all with a double dash of an ecologically conscious spirit like Square One Organic Vodka or 360 Eco Luxury Vodka bottled in 85 per cent recycled glass (which now comes in gift packs with CFL bulbs).
Whatever you do, don't serve drinks in unrecyclable plastic cups! To avoid going through five glasses per guest, tie a different coloured ribbon or charm to each guest's glass so they don't keep losing them and reaching for new ones.
Need some nibblies or a full-on feast? Obviously, you want to go as organic as you can, but it can cost you. You'll find way better prices and fresher ingredients at organic farmers' markets that run all through the winter. Stop by Dufferin Grove on Thursday before your big soirée to find ingredients that will make menu planning easy as pie - stuff like smoked Georgian Bay fish, wild foraged mushrooms, fresh potato-rosemary focaccia, as well as pre-prepared organic dishes, sauces and desserts for lazier (or just plain time-deprived) hosts.
If your budget's really tight, throw a 'Tis the Season To Eat Local potluck, where everyone makes a dish that uses as many seasonal ingredients as possible. Potlucks, however, lend themselves to the buffet format, which inevitably involves balancing paper plates on laps. If you don't trust your punched-up friends with your ceramic dishes, look for some made of renewable materials like bamboo or compostable sugarcane, or stop by Whole Foods to snag some super-handy reusable plates, tumblers and cutlery made of 100 per cent recycled #5 plastic. (They even go in your dishwasher).
Not enough cloth napkins for everyone? You can of course get the unbleached 100 per cent recycled kind by companies like Cascades, or if you're going with a garbage-less, packaging-free party theme, head to a thrift store and get yourself a vintage tablecloth to cut up into napkin-size pieces.
Whatever theme and tactics you choose, spread the word about your sustainable shindig the paperless way using Al Gore's invention (why, that would be the Internet, of course). Once the night has come and gone and you've kicked every last drunk out, you can pass out peacefully knowing your party did the planet a little dose of good.
Got a question?
Send your green queries to email@example.com